Hurricane Dean, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, is tearing through the Caribbean islands. More will follow, due largely to the rapid dissipation of El Nino conditions. What can you do to prepare your home for the season? Here are 15 tips:
1. With a hurricane in the forecast, secure all loose outdoor objects (lawn furniture, garbage cans, etc.) that can become flying missiles in high winds.
2. Tape over and seal all soffit and roof vents. Wind-blown rain can hit the siding of your home and splash into the soffit vents and enter through roof vents, allowing water into your attic. Take the tape off after the storm.
3. If you're building a new home or putting on a new roof, go with no soffit or attic vents. It protects your home from wind-blown rain entering the attic through the vents, and it can save money on heating and cooling bills.
4. If you're replacing entry doors, consider installing a door that swings out. These doors have welded hinge pins, so security is not a problem, and wind helps to keep the door secured properly.
5. Consider a whole-home backup generator. Even if your home isn't damaged, power can sometimes be out for an extended period of time. These generators come on automatically when the power goes out and continue to run until the power is restored.
6. Have a safety kit stocked in case of evacuation. Include first aid supplies and medications, fire extinguisher, bottled water, pet food and supplies, packaged/canned non-perishable food and a non-electric can opener, protective clothes, gloves and blankets.
7. Fuel your car, clean out bathtubs and sinks and fill with drinking water and prepare evacuation routes.
8. If you evacuate during a hurricane, turn off gas, water and electricity.
9. Determine which room is safest in your home to withstand severe weather. In a case where evacuation is not suggested or mandated, designate an interior room with no windows as the family meeting area. Make certain to wear closed-toe shoes or sneakers in case you need to exit your home over debris.
10. Also make certain to have an escape route planned from your home. Make sure everyone knows of a safe location to meet away from the house. Designate an out-of-state family member or friend as a contact so that all family members have a single point of contact if separated during a storm.
11. Prepare for after the storm by stocking up on essentials that will help put your home and yard back together. Materials includes tarps, duct tape, heavy work gloves, gas cans, batteries, cleaning supplies, chain saws, shovels, rakes, water filters, first aid kits and extra-strength large garbage bags.
12. Don't wait until the last minute to trim tree limbs that are touching or near your home. High winds can turn these innocent limbs into sledgehammers that damage your home.
13. Make sure your shingles, flashing and gutters are clean and working properly so rain water can flow quickly from your home during severe weather. Also make sure flowerbeds and yard surfaces are draining all water away from your foundation.
14. Make sure children know how and when to call 9-1-1. Also, have a battery-powered NOAA weather radio available in your home in office. Check your insurance coverage.
15. Have plenty of cash on hand (many cash machines will be out of order during a hurricane) in case of an evacuation.
Tips on Choosing a Generator
There are four main considerations when shopping for a portable generator:
· How much power do you need the generator to supply? Do you want to provide basic power to keep the lights on and sump pump working, or do you want all of the comforts of your home when the power goes out? To determine your power needs, decide what you want the generator to run. Then go to this online wattage calculator to determine the size generator you need: http://briggsandstratton.com/display/router.asp?docid=76400
· Look for a generator with a long run time at half-load. The longer the generator can run, the less often you will have to refuel it. A generator with a run-time of at least 10 hours at half-load will allow you to get a full night's sleep without having to get up to refuel.
· Select a generator with enough outlets and the right type(s) of outlets. If you plan to run a higher wattage item, like a window air conditioner, look for a generator with a 30-amp locking-type outlet.
· Portable generators can be heavy. Look for a generator with wheels and fold-down handles to make it easier to move it in and out of storage.